Marvel Studios Countdown: How 'Daredevil' is Unlike Anything Marvel Has Done So Far

Marvel Studios Countdown: How 'Daredevil' is Unlike Anything Marvel Has Done So Far

Apr 09, 2015

Daredevil is unlike anything Marvel Studios has done. We got a look at the first five episodes of the 13-part season, and it’s nothing like the Marvel Studios films nor the spin-off shows from ABC. This is great news. This is a low-key, performance-driven crime drama, where the episodes don’t follow a tidy formula nor aim to move Daredevil kids meal toys. It’s street-level and human and it’s going to make a lot of fans of “ol hornhead” very, very happy.

Daredevil, missing the luxury of a $200 million budget like its big-screen peers, is shot like an indie crime film (or a low-budget horror movie -- lots of darkened rooms with one sickly amber key light) and makes the best use of its greatest resource, a talented cast. All of the players, from Deborah Ann Woll as the complex, troubled Karen Page to Bob Gunton as the smarmy “Owl” Leland Owlsley, command the screen with the same level of interest as the title character himself.

It’s also a sharply written show, without the glibness that sometimes peppers a Marvel production. It’s more talky than expected, but the actors are given room to act, and the dialogue is worth acting. When the action does happen, it happens organically, and is mostly integral to the plot at hand. If the other shows, Luke Cage, AKA Jessica Jones, and Iron Fist, are this good, us grown-up Marvel fans have a lot to look forward to.

Here are some answers to the questions we know people are wondering about, because they’re all questions we’ve been asked by those who know we’ve seen the first five episodes!

 

What’s it about?

If you came to this article knowing nothing about Daredevil, he’s Matt Murdock, a lawyer-by-day, vigilante-by-night who lost his sight in an accident while his remaining senses became super-receptive.

Karen Page (Woll) gets in big trouble when she discovers a slush fund disguised as pensions at the company where she works. She gets the legal assistance of Matt Murdock and Foggy Nelson (Elden Henson) and the attention of an unnamed, powerful force within the criminal community that we, the viewers, know is Wilson Fisk (aka Kingpin, played by Vincent D’Onofrio). Page, not knowing that Matt Murdock as Daredevil is out on the streets trying to figure out what Fisk’s game is, withholds information from Matt and seeks the help of reporter Ben Urich (Vondie Curtis-Hall) to expose Fisk’s reach in the underworld.

Thematically, there are discussions about truth as an absolute while morality is more negotiable. This early in his vigilante career, Daredevil is still trying to find an intersection between morality and truth. Scenes where the hero stabs a man in the top of the eye socket with a knife to get information feel like he’s still learning where his own moral lines are, while clinging to absolute “truth” like a life preserver in his lawyer life. If he doesn’t prove himself right in these early days, then he may learn that morality is more absolute than he thinks and that the truth is more fluid. That remains to be seen, but when Fisk later discusses his plans for the city as a truth, one begins to consider how Murdock’s worldview might be a faulty one.

How’s Charlie Cox as Matt Murdock/Daredevil?

He’s good! Surprisingly though, at least in the episodes reviewed, it’s an ensemble show. Cox doesn’t dominate early episodes and Daredevil’s interactions are kept to the moments that the story demands them. Most of Cox’s best scenes are the ones he shares with Rosario Dawson as nurse Claire Temple (shocker - there’s much more Karen and Foggy than Matt and Foggy). This is not a show where Murdock solves crimes for the first half, then dishes out punishment as Daredevil in the back half. It’s a show where all of the players have significance in moving the story along.

If anything, it’s a Kingpin origin show. The accident that costs Murdock his sight and imbues him with his enhanced senses is kept to the opening minutes of the first episode, while Wilson Fisk’s climb to power and the courtship of a local art dealer (Ayeley Zurer) are given much more time. D’Onofrio is scary good, bringing Fisk to life as at his most frightening when he’s just a little bit vulnerable. He’s a strong contender for the most three-dimensional Marvel villain since Loki.

 

How’s that black suit?

It works well within the context of the show. Murdock hasn’t defined himself as Daredevil just yet, and I don’t think he’d consider himself a superhero at this point, so he doesn’t really need a superhero’s costume. However, the red suit is teased in the opening credits, so be patient.

 

Are there any connections to the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe?

Yes, there are smart ones. In the first episode, Murdock and Nelson are able to get their own office because rent is cheap in the areas of New York destroyed by “the incident,” that being the Chitauri face-off at the end of Avengers. During a meeting with various underworld bosses, Owlsley mentions that the bigger threats divert the attention of law enforcement away from their street-level criminal activity. These are subtle, logical references that take advantage of the fabric of the shared universe. It’s pretty satisfying.

How “R-rated” does it get?

The violence is definitely “R-rated,” or in this case TV-MA. There are shocking moments of violence in just the first few episodes that are as brutal as anything we’ve seen in crime films. And it’s not just the bad guys doing bad things -- Daredevil will resort to torture to get what he needs and the camera doesn’t flinch. Fight scenes are woozy and tooth-rattling; not the brisk back-and-forth exchange of punches and kicks we’ve come to expect from Marvel productions. The violence feels right for the show, all in keeping with Daredevil’s “real world” tone.

 

Is it like the comics?

It doesn’t follow any particular story arc, but it is enough like the character and his world that Daredevil fans should be very happy. The show looks to Frank Miller and Brian Michael Bendis for obvious inspiration, but even those creators were building Daredevil stories on the backs of those who came before. It’s faithful like The Flash is faithful - it just feels like Daredevil.

Daredevil comes to Netflix on April 10.

 

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